I wasn’t as impressed by the first IA ROCKS song I reviewd, Bloody Gravity. However, Setsuna Drive gives us another chance to see how IA ROCKS’s append voicebank sounds. Although both songs pair IA’s slightly altered voice well with a rock-guitar heavy instrumental, Setsuna Drive is that bit more cool. This version of Setsuna Drive is actually a cover of the initial song, uploaded a year ago, using IA ROCKS over the original IA. As an added treat, the song is presented with one of the popular Shidu’s creative PVs.
9 Parabellum Bullet is a Japanese rock band with Yoshimitsu Taki as the guitarist, but Setsuna Drive is an original release by the very same guy along with a team separate from the band. It gives Setsuna Drive great live potential, and you can almost imagine another vocalist covering it, perhaps male as appropriate to the band’s image.
Fans of the Kagerou Project series would recognize Shidu’s animation in this very involved PV. Although the lyrics are vague and in the category of “striving for something despite the odds”, the illustrations add visual elements to the metaphoric struggle. Characteristically sketchy lines are juxtaposed with bold, sunset-strewn colors. The mood matches the idea of a “sadistic” reality the lyrics mention and the somewhat dystopian cityscape.
The two characters in the PV is one rather kickass-looking IA in what looks like a racing or futuristic uniform, and one dark-colored and severely handicapped IA. The two contrasting versions of the same person remind me of Konoha from Kagerou Project, as Shidu worked on the same basic character design. Yet, Setsuna Drive uses this to another effect. Black or “Kuro” IA suffers with bandages all over her body, and a crutch for what appears to be a torn off leg with wires hanging out. This android-like IA takes “weakness” and “overcoming life’s obstacles” to a literal degree, as she sits in an alleyway and looks up at the birds flying in a blood-red sky. Obvious metaphor for a wish for freedom besides, the white/original IA offers her a hand and at least half of the advice in the song.
In the end, Kuro IA is shown to be standing onher own, with a new prosthetic leg replacement. The “setsuna” of Setsuna Drive means “moment/instant,” and the song concludes that “In this moment, we felt eternal.” No, I really hope that’s not a John Green reference. Rather, what they seem to be getting at is again one of the old anime adages that a “proof of existence” comes from simply allowing yourself to live and feel your emotions freely in the moment. It’s a little hard to tell whether the two IAs are meant to portray two sides of the same person, or more likely Hope/Strength versus Despair/Weakness.
Just as the PV is simple but well-rendered and effective, the song is strong. I like how the song is made with both a rock band as well as a Vocaloid song’s style in mind. The message in Setsuna Drive is clearly conveyed within the music’s beat. IA ROCKS’s rendering gives off a sense of tragedy, but also a lot of fight. I have no complaints with the great tuning of her voice or the variations in the song, and it almost feels like there’s little to comment on because of how compactly put together the song is. The only thing Setsuna Drive really lacks is one of those distinct, attention-grabbingly specific song-and-dance components for the otaku. In appealing to J-rock fans, it misses the quirky and cutesy niche that the Vocaloid community moons over. Still, a best rank of 3 on Niconico is already commendable enough to prove its popularity.
Using Setsuna Drive as a comparison test for the IA ROCKS voicebank, it is again not very evidently different than her usual sound. We do hear the tonal differences and a better adaptation for rock music, while keeping the same sweet IA. Yet listening to the original side by side, it’s hard to distinguish too much. You can give it points for being less muffled by the background music and not as high-pitched or thin, which I suppose is the main, if only, few points to buying the new version.
I think that the IA ROCKS package works as something of a replacement and upgrade for the normal IA ~Aria on the Planetes~ in rock songs, rather than as a separate sound selection to vary it up, as the other Vocaloid appends tend to go for. As much as I was disappointed with the previous review on Bloody Gravity, I find even a good song has little to add to the new voicebank’s usage. So my verdict is that IA ROCKS handles what it was intended to handle well, but doesn’t have as much potential for extremely fresh new song genres.
-Good rock sound.
-Good IA ROCKS tuning.
-IA ROCKS doesn’t offer a very new or different take.